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Karla Faye Tucker's last hours?

Condemned killer awaits word from court, governor

Tucker is scheduled to die shortly after 6 p.m. CST (7 p.m. EST) Tuesday   
February 3, 1998
Web posted at: 8:36 a.m. EST (1336 GMT)
In this story:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (CNN) -- Condemned killer Karla Faye Tucker, who may have only hours to live, was waiting to hear on Tuesday if her life would be spared, at least temporarily.

Only the possibility of a last-minute stay by the Supreme Court, where an appeal is pending, or intervention by Texas Gov. George W. Bush stood between Tucker and the distinction of becoming the first woman executed in Texas since 1863.

Tucker and an accomplice killed two people with a pickax in 1983, but she now says she is a born-again Christian who is not a threat to society.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a plea to commute -- that is, change -- her sentence to life in prison, and a federal judge in Austin denied a request for a stay of execution.

Texas does not have a sentence of life without parole. If Tucker's sentence was reduced to life she would be eligible for parole in 2003.

Top graphic

Tucker Profile:
Facing death with memories of murder

Larry King interviews Tucker
Larry King debate on Tucker case

Women on Death Row

Should gender be an issue?

Message Board:
Debating the death penalty

Tucker's letter seeking reprieve

Bush could grant a one-time 30-day stay -- a delay of execution while her case is reconsidered -- but has said he won't make a decision until after the Supreme Court rules. Tucker's appeal centers on the state's commutation process.

Her lawyers contend it was unfair and unconstitutional because she didn't have a chance to personally plea for her life.

Preparing for execution

On Monday, in preparation for the execution, Tucker was taken from death row at a prison in Gatesville, in central Texas and flown to Huntsville, 80 miles north of Houston, where the state's executions are carried out.

Death chamber
Death chamber   

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said she met throughout the day with family members and friends and would do so again for a few hours on Tuesday.

Tucker's family and her husband, Dana Brown, who met her in prison, where he worked as a minister to inmates, say she is calm and upbeat. They saw her Monday and may visit again Tuesday until about noon.

For her last meal, she requested a banana, a peach and a salad, with either Ranch or Italian dressing. Tucker also chose to be executed wearing the white prison uniform that has been her only wardrobe for more than 14 years.

Without intervention, Tucker was to be led to the death chamber and strapped on to a gurney at 6:01 p.m. CST (7:01 p.m. EST) Tuesday evening, given a few moments to make a final statement, then put to death by a lethal mix of chemicals injected into her arm.

She selected five people, the maximum allowed, to be witnesses to her death. They included her husband and Ronald Carlson, the brother of Deborah Thornton, one of her victims.

Carlson is opposed to her execution and all executions.

Mrs. Thornton's husband, Richard, and two stepchildren, all of whom favor Tucker's death, also will watch her die.

Gruesome double murders

In announcing that Tucker's bid for clemency had been rejected, the chairman of the Texas parole board, Victor Rodriguez, cited the "horrific" nature of her crime.

Murder scene
Tucker and Daniel Garrett killed two people with a pickax in 1983   

Tucker has admitted accompanying a partner in 1983 to the Houston apartment of Jerry Lynn Dean, 27, to see if they could cap three days of almost nonstop drug-taking by stealing Dean's motorcycle.

Once inside, the partner -- Daniel Garrett, then 37 -- started beating Dean with a hammer.

When the battered man began to gurgle, Tucker, then 23, grabbed a 3-foot-long pickax and repeatedly plunged it into him.

Dean's friend, Thornton, was cowering under sheets in a corner until the intruders discovered her.

Tucker turned the ax on Thornton to eliminate her as a witness. In a tape recording played in court, she bragged to friends that she got sexual thrills out of the attack.

Garrett, also sentenced to death, died in prison of liver disease in 1993.


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